09 April 2024

How do Open Doors’ safe houses for North Korean refugees work?

How do Open Doors fieldworkers meet the North Korean refugees who come to their secret safe houses in China? Given the dangers, how do they share the gospel? Find out in this fascinating behind-the-scenes look into one of the safe houses, which includes a letter written to you by a North Korean secret believer. 

North Korea

North Korea is the country where it's most dangerous to follow Jesus

The street is covered in deep darkness and the streetlights, if there are any, don’t appear to be working. Hidden away is a place that looks like a typical Chinese home or apartment, but this is no ordinary house. It’s one of the several safe houses run by Open Doors fieldworkers in the Chinese border area – a place where North Korean refugees are cared for and learn about Jesus.

Spies surprised by kindness

“The refugees wander the streets looking for places to sleep”, says Yun Hee*, who operates the safe house. “I approach them, offer them a free place to stay, and serve them until they go back or move on. They want to know why I do this without asking anything in return. Only then do I share with them about God and the Bible. Many return as believers!” It’s a difficult job, but Yun Hee is sustained by God. “Sometimes this work wears me out. Then I kneel and pray and God always gives new strength.” 

"In the back of the car, I explain the gospel to the North Korean escapee" Beom-Seok

The work is fraught with risk – which can often bring some unexpected opportunities. “I have seen even spies change because I was kind to them”, continues Yun Hee. “Some guests later confessed they had been sent to make a report about me for their secret service, but they said they were so grateful to me that they promised to only write good things and nothing about ‘illegal’ activities.” 

The code word that unlocks the gospel

The threat of infiltration is constant, meaning Yun Hee and the other fieldworkers must always take extreme caution when sharing the gospel. Those who are genuine believers, or sincerely searching for the truth, are connected with workers who do a Bible study with them. 

“We have a code word”, explains Beom-Seok*, another secret fieldworker. “If my local contact tells me that word, I know I have to meet him in a specific parking place. In the back of the car, I explain the gospel to the North Korean escapee. If he or she wants to learn more, we’ll go deeper next time. If we’re certain we can trust the person, we’ll give in-depth Bible study for several days in a safe location. This way we prepare them for when they go back. Many North Koreans bring back the gospel and evangelise their own families.” 

A letter inspired by ‘your loving support’

Typically, those who stay at the safe house cannot be there for long, because of the dangers of staying in China, but they return home having been soaked in love, supplied with provisions, and strengthened in faith – none of which could happen without your prayers and gifts. Our North Korean family is immensely grateful, as reflected in this letter left behind by a believer, who asked for it to be shared with those who made his stay at the safe house possible…

Dear brothers and sisters whom I have never seen or known,  

Thank you, everyone! I am grateful to God. I could truly feel His and your love. 

Even though we do not know each other, it feels like we know each other in Jesus Christ from long ago. Because God has chosen us, we became brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.  

"I cannot express all my gratitude with words and pen" Hoon

I give thanks to God.  

I thank God for calling me to do His will and to meet with [name omitted for security reasons] so that we can cooperate together in our ministry. I thank God for everything He has done.  

Your loving support has helped me to remove my burdens and I am so grateful that I can continue to do the work that He wants to accomplish through me.  

I have so much to thank but I cannot express all my gratitude with words and pen.  

However, I would like to repay to you all by doing everything I can to carry out God’s ministry.  

Lastly, I would like to convey my gratefulness and blessings from 3 John 1:2: “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” 

Thank you all once again.  

Your brother in Christ, Hoon*.  

*Names changed for security reasons

Please pray
  • Give thanks for the impact of these safe houses, and please pray for continued protection over them 
  • That all those who’ve stayed at a safe house will be empowered in their faith and witness, and kept from harm
  • That the fieldworkers will be given continued strength, wisdom and courage in their work.
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